Hillfort, a beacon and dewpond on Ditchling Beacon


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015340

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Oct-1996


Ordnance survey map of Hillfort, a beacon and dewpond on Ditchling Beacon
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: East Sussex

District: Lewes (District Authority)

Parish: Ditchling

County: East Sussex

District: Lewes (District Authority)

Parish: Westmeston

National Park: SOUTH DOWNS

National Grid Reference: TQ 33147 13033


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes, generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth - fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for 150 to 200 years prior to their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, while access to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways while more elaborate features like overlapping ramparts and outworks are limited to only a few examples. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Slight univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally. Although on a national scale the number is low, in Devon they comprise one of the major classes of hillfort. In other areas where the distribution is relatively dense, for example, Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the Chilterns, hillforts belonging to a number of different classes occur within the same region. Examples are also recorded in eastern England, the Welsh Marches, central and southern England. In view of the rarity of slight univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples which survive comparatively well and have potential for the recovery of further archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Although it has been partly damaged by modern ploughing, the slight univallate hillfort on Ditchling Beacon survives comparatively well, and has been shown by part excavation to contain archaeological remains dating to the period in which it was consructed and used. The later beacon mound also survives well, despite some disturbance caused by the later OS trig pillar, and its siting within the hillfort reflects the far-reaching visibility of the monument in the landscape. The 18th/19th century dewpond illustrates the importance of this area of downland for stock grazing during the agricultural revolution, and the 19th century parish boundary stone is a relatively unusual survival of a type of monument which originally enjoyed a widespread distribution of the Sussex Downs.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort dating to the Iron Age, and a later beacon and dewpond situated on a ridge of the Sussex Downs. A boundary stone dating to the post-medieval period is also included in the scheduling. The hillfort defences, which survive in the form of earthworks and as crop marks visible on aerial photographs, enclose a roughly rectangular area of about 7ha. On the north western and eastern sides, the defences take the form of a low bank about 3m wide and up to 1m high surrounded by a ditch which has become partly infilled over the years, but which is still visible as a depression about 3m wide and up to 0.5m deep. To the north, where the ground falls away sharply to form the steep northern scarp of the ridge, artificial defences were not constructed. Towards the south and west, the bank and ditch have been largely reduced by modern ploughing. The hillfort was partly excavated in 1929 when sherds of Iron Age and Romano-British pottery were found within its interior. Several gaps have been created in the ramparts over the years, most of which result from use of the later downland tracks and paths which cross the monument. The later beacon, located in the northern sector of the hillfort, takes the form of a circular mound around 10m in diameter and around 0.5m high, on which a later, modern OS trig pillar has been sited. The location of the beacon makes use of the prominent location of the monument, which commands extensive views of the Channel coast to the south and the Weald to the north. Ditchling beacon was one of a chain of beacons which stretched along the South Downs during the medieval and post-medieval periods. Lying around 3m to the north west of the hillfort ditch on the north western side of the monument is a now dry dewpond dating to the 18th or 19th centuries. This has a circular hollow around 20m in diameter and 1.5m deep, surrounded by a 5m wide retaining bank. This survives to a height of 1.5m above the surrounding ground on its southern and western sides. The boundary stone marks the line of the former parish boundary and dates to the 19th century. It is situated around 8m to the south of the northern scarp of the ridge, within the northern sector of the earlier hillfort, and is a low, square Greensand pillar with a pyramidal top which has the initials `WP' and `TD' inscribed on its south eastern and north western sides. At least two further, similar boundary stones were formerly sited within the monument along the former parish boundary to the south, but these have now been removed. Excluded from the scheduling are the viewing point panel and paving situated near the beacon, the Ordnance Survey trig pillar which lies on the beacon, all modern fences which cross the monument, all stiles and gates, and the modern concrete boundary marker situated around 75m to the south of the northern edge of the monument along the former parish boundary, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27031

Legacy System: RSM


FMW, Coad, V, Ancient Monument Record Form, AM107, (1991)
RCHME, NMR TQ 3313/8 Frame 350, (1977)

End of official listing